Help with basic GE z-wave switch wiring

Ok, so I thought I was pretty handy with a screwdriver and understood basic electrical wiring.

I can’t for the life of me get the switches to work. It looks oh so straightforward.

I watched And followed his advice, but no luck.

Attached is a diagram for how I am connecting. I am guessing it has to do with using the Neutral connection. But I am unclear what Neutral is, and why I may need it, so I didn’t try it.

(apparently new users can’t attach images) Try this:

As far as I know, all of the GE / Jascos require a neutral. There are some older Intermattic / Wayne Dalton dimmers that don’t require a neutral.

Leviton has some 5A switches that don’t require a neutral but they work with incandescent only.

Are you sure there’s no neutral just hiding in the back of the box somewhere? :smile:

Just to clarify, this is a switch, not a dimmer. If that makes a difference.

There are not any additional wires in this particular box. How do you install w/o a neutral?

To add to my confusion…

I have an installed GE z-wave dimmer installed AND working that only has Line, Load, and Ground connected, nothing connected to Neutral. I just pulled it out of the box again to double check.

Could depend on your fixture. My understanding is that switches draw power from the neutral – if you have an incandescent fixture they will trickle juice from the line for power, but that will only work as long as the fixture is not fluorescent.

I have 45609s installed and they would not work with just a line, load and ground with my wiring and fixtures.

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Ok, apparently the Dimmer versions of the switch do NOT need a neutral, they will draw a trickle charge from the Line to power the z-wave function, as you said. If your bulb burns out the z-wave function will stop, using the neutral prevents this.

I guess with no Neutral available, I will need to use a Dimmer version, and not the On/Off version.

I wonder why they didn’t Design the On/Off version the same way as the Dimmer version…

Pretty much any electrical device requires a hot and a neutral, the technical explanation gets a little in depth but in simple terms you you a hot(+) and a neutral(-) to power a device. Do not confuse a home ground as a neutral(-) because it’s not.

When power comes from your power company it comes on 3 lines, generally. 2 hots (+'s) and a neutral(-). Devices that require 110v use only one of the hots and devices that use 220v use both hots. All devices use the neutral. The ground doesn’t come from your power company, it normally comes from a ground rod driven into the earth outside your home.

Also when I say neutral(-) the minus isn’t really a negative, AC Power isn’t really a negative. I was just using it in the example because most people understand DC Power as + and -.

Many people will tell you that you can fake the neutral with you home ground, this is a very bad idea and even when it does work can be dangerous.

So to answer your question a Wemo,Z-wave,Zigbee switch requires constant power hot and neutral to power the radio and then uses a relay to turn the load on and off, this is why a normal switch doesn’t need a neutral and the smart switch does. The device your powering has them both but the switch location usually only has the hot wire.

This has been a real pain for me in home automation because I do not have neutrals in some locations and in most locations I have very old and stiff knob and tube wiring.


Something I’ve learned since writing this post is there are some z-wave dimmers that do not require a neutral. Most will not work with CFL bulbs, or some LED bulbs. This is because the dimmer allows a small amount of power to flow through at all times and most LEDs and CFL’s see that power and will not fully shut off. The other issue is that using the dimmer with CFL’s and LED’s will be erratic at best. There are some LED’s that work, best way to know if see if they work with Dimmers.


What about grounds? I have an older home without any ground wires. Is it safe to install on/offs, dimmers, or 3-ways (45609s,45612s, 45614s, 45613s)?

I will not answer the question of safe because the short answer is no. You should check with local electrical codes and electrician if you have further questions.

Will it work? Yes, it will.

I have been looking at the GE zWave switches to replace some of the key switches in my house including 3 and 4 way configurations. The house and wiring are new and the wiring presumably follows British Columbia code. Every box I have looked at has capped neutral wires not connected to existing switches (assume the neutral gets connected to the fixture/s being controlled by the switches). For a zWave switch that requires a neutral feed I believe I need to pigtail a small length of white wire into the existing wire nut in the box. One thing I am not sure of is how to connect the slaves – especially the existing 4 way that has 4 traveller connections – my guess is that only one traveller wire and a neutral need to be connected to carry power and communicate with the master. Not keen on spending the $$$ until I’m sure!

For typical light switches the neutral wires are connected directly with the neutral wires going to the load (as you describe). I’ve only wired a 3-way configuration with a GE switch, but I think all of the auxiliary switches are connected the same way, so in the 4-way (or any non-master) box you’d wire-nut the black wires together, the red wires together, and pigtail white (neutral), black (line), and ground connections to the switch. Only the main switch is connected to line and load.

You can probably find the documentation for the specific switches you are look for my searching around on-line. That will give you the final word on how they will need to be wired.

Thanks makes sense – I have ordered a couple for learning by doing!

In the mechanical switch that you replace you don’t need the neutral because the mechanical action performs the switching to connect the load to the hot line. With even a simple Z-wave switch you need to connect the neutral white wire so that the switch itself has the power needed to connect to the hub and to perform the switching action. This will also be used to illuminate the little blue light. The red traveler light is only used for 3-way and beyond switches to send a signal to the add-on switches that the connection has been toggled. For simple switches you don’t need this wire.

I had an issue getting the light switch to work as well. After an hour of testing, the neutral wire was needed. It was not needed for the original non z-wave switch, but it was needed to get the z-wave switch to power on. There is a white neutral wire that comes with the GE z-wave switch. I connected it into the neutral white wires already present into the z-wave switch and it works without issue.

So after a day or two looking for an answer and trying to install this switch me and my brother in law came to an easy solution it might help people out,
We connected the hot and load wires to their respective positions then the little white wire that comes in the box with the switch just connect that from the switch ground to the switch neutral, and attach the switch to the wall, that made my switches work, hope it helps someone.

You should not be bridging Neutral to Ground unless you are sure that you have an isolated circuit. Even then, most of the time Neutral to Ground bridging is illegal by code. Any appliances or other devices that attach their ground wire to the appliance metal body have the potential to give you a fatal shock when the Neutral and Ground are bridged. Please be careful and check with a certified electrician. Just because you made it work, doesn’t mean it’s safe or approved by code.


What @dc01 said. It sounds like you are describing a “bootleg ground.” It can kill you. This has been against code in the US for almost 20 years.

The wiring FAQ may help clear up any momentary confusion about networked switches:

But the main thing is if the manufacturer says the switch needs 4 wires (hot, neutral, load, and ground), then it needs 4 wires to operate safely. (BTW, US code also requires following the manufacturer’s instructions.) If your wiring doesn’t match, you may be able to find a different model of switch that will work.


I also have a problem with my GE Z-wave On/Off switch that I purchased. I have two of these already in. One in a standard single pole setup and one in a 3 way setup with an aux switch. Both are working well.

On the other hand, I have picked two other locations for another one of these switches and I get very different results. Once I wire it up appropriately (Load to Load, Line to Line, Neutral to white), I get no LED on the front of the switch and the light does not work. Out of curiosity I moved the neutral to the set of black wires in the box and the LED works. I tried turning the switch on and the lights do come off but however they turn off immediately.

Any help is appreciated.

Well for this situation you have 1 of 3 possibilities.

  1. You have your line, load or neutral mixed up. US wiring code does not mandate colors, so white does not always = neutral… though normally it will. Mixing up line and load is very easy. Swapping the 2 black wires may resolve your issue. An electrical testing kit can also help resolve this.
  2. You have bad wiring, if this is the case an electrician is your only hope and is more common than it should be.
  3. You have a bad switch. if you swap the switch for one in a know good location and it works then this is not your issue.
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sidjohn1 beat me to it…double check your load and line wiring.